Despite being away from school for only one year, I have learned oceans of things about myself. As graduation approaches for peers and strangers all around the world, I start to reminisce about what I was taught in the confines of a University classroom. Calculus, Organic Chemistry, Physiology. Yet what stands out, what I cannot help but be reminded of, is what I did not learn – what they didn’t teach me.
They don’t teach you how to hurt. How to truly hurt, to truly feel every inch of your body on fire and be at peace with it. To see your grandfather or your brother grieving in front of you, to see your mother throw herself into the plot and beg for the world to take her too. They don’t teach you how to hold someone who is delicate and lost, who just needs to feel the sincerity within your cells against their aching skin. They don’t teach you how to cry with your best friend, how to compassionately be there for another human being because you were once there as well.
No, they don’t teach you how to love. How to truly love, how to selflessly commit to someone else, how to give your heart to another human being and trust that their palms won’t crush your gift. They don’t teach you how to love yourself, how to build a temple within your ribcage that doesn’t wax and wane with validation, that doesn’t turn to ruins in the midst of your confusion. They don’t teach you how to stand alone, in pure confidence, in ruthless certainty of your matchless heart.
They don’t teach you resistance, resilience. They don’t teach you how to make ends meet, how to get up each and every solitary day as a single mother or a struggling twenty something when all you want to do is sleep. They don’t teach you how to live with your demons, with your disappointments, they don’t teach you how to figure out who you used to be before you allowed for your flaws to define you. They don’t teach you how to push, how to truly push back at life when it closes in on you, how to remind yourself of white-hot light in the midst of a sapphire dark spell. They don’t teach you how to survive.
See, if math were a life lesson we would learn how to count the number of times we’ve been let down. We would learn to subtract all of our pride, leaving us with understanding, leaving us with a will to persist. If geography were that of existence, we would take fieldtrips to the redwoods and breathe in their beauty, we would learn about how the universe is mapped out within our veins, how the Milky Way and Cassiopeia are dancing within our brains. If art were a life lecture, we would take a magnifying glass to the cracks within our bodies, and we would see just how whole we are in spite of them, just how artistic our own wounds can be, like famed Renaissance mosaics, like chipped one hundred year old paintings.
No, they don’t teach you what it takes to be human, what it takes to be real. For the reality of life thrives in our experiences of it. The marrow within our bones is made up of practice; it is made up of the memories that defined us, the moments that surprised us, that hurt us, that challenged us. We are walking, breathing lessons, our cities are our institutes, our peers are our professors, our mistakes are our tutors. Make sure you are constantly educating yourself; make sure you are constantly learning.